Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker
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The Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce honored its top businesses with the community-voted "Best of" awards at its annual banquet Monday, Feb. 19 at Kilkarney Hills in River Falls.
Arrests, tickets follow crashes • A deputy on patrol encountered a two-car crash Feb. 16 at 1005th Street and Highway 35 in Hager City. Occupants sustained minor injuries. A River Falls resident was cited for unsafe lane deviation. • Deputies were dispatched Feb. 17 to a rollover crash at 920th Street and Highway 65 near River Falls, where they learned the incident had occurred several hours earlier. The driver said he forgot to call 911 at the time of the crash. Several tickets were issued.
HUDSON — A former girls basketball coach accused of molesting a babysitter erupted into uncontrollable sobs Friday after a judge sentenced him to prison. The 20-year sentence, issued by St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Scott Needham, is five years longer than what was sought by prosecution for 43-year-old Louis J. French. The judge’s sentence calls for the Hudson man to spend 10 years in prison and 10 years on extended supervision.
Raids on two St. Croix County homes this week yielded what authorities said was about 275 pounds of suspected marijuana. St. Croix County prosecutors said the drugs were found stashed in nearby homes in the town of Eau Galle while serving search warrants on Wednesday, Feb. 21.
The aftermath of a Super Bowl-timed sex crime sting revealed details from more suspects rounded up this month in St. Croix County. Criminal complaints against two Hudson men and a Woodville man outlined state and local efforts to target child pornography. Two of those cases were launched after Hudson police got word about suspected child porn being discovered by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The organization passed information along to the state's Department of Justice, which disseminated the complaints to local law enforcement.
Two people were hospitalized Monday after a suspected alcohol-involved crash in rural Hager City. Pierce County Sheriff's Office deputies responded at 4:47 p.m. Feb. 19 to Highway 63 near 830th Street for a single-vehicle crash. The driver, Mondovi resident Emily M. Kent, and her passenger, 40-year-old Crystal R. Sanders Mendez, were taken by ambulance to Mayo Clinic Health System-Red Wing with non-life threatening injuries.
Authorities said it took a costume, a comment and a cast of accomplices to pull off a con that fleeced Walmart out of thousands of dollars at various stores in western Wisconsin and Minnesota. According to court documents, the main suspect would enter a Walmart clad in a former employee's vest, then approach a cashier, who would be told it was breaktime. From there, the suspect would open up the cash register to allow a string of accomplices to buy thousands of dollars in gift cards. And then, according to authorities, it was off to the next store.
Fire destroyed a wood shop Tuesday in rural Spring Valley. Spring Valley Fire Chief Mike Fitzjarrell said firefighters were called at about 5:30 p.m. Feb. 20 to N8273 County Road I in the town of Gilman, where a resident reported the blaze. Pierce County land records state the property is owned by Thomas and Naomi McLeod.
A Roberts man was charged with drunken driving for the eighth time last week after a suspected hit-and-run crash in St. Croix County. Police arrested 37-year-old Jaason A. Bierschenk Feb. 12 after he was allegedly seen ditching his wrecked car and heading to the Willow River Saloon in Burkhardt. He was charged the next day with OWI-eighth offense — a felony — along with operating while revoked and hit and run, both misdemeanors. The felony charge carries a mandatory three-year minimum prison sentence.
Deputies responded at 12:46 a.m. Feb. 8 to W9405 830th Ave. in River Falls for a burglary in progress. Statements were taken and evidence was gathered. Traffic trouble • Deputies on patrol conducted a traffic stop at 8:47 p.m. Feb. 5 at 770th Street and Highway 35 in Hager City, where a vehicle was seen with a headlight out. The driver, a Newport, Minn., woman, was later arrested on suspicion of operating without a license, methamphetamine possession and a probation hold.